Sunday, April 01, 2007

Foodie Bliss and Warm Spring Sunshine

This morning I woke up dreaming of summer vacation in a lovely, warm place. Italy, France, maybe Spain. While everyone was still in bed, I went downstairs and tore open my French cookbook, a beautiful huge book with gorgeous pictures of lovely traditional dishes and the French landscape. The panoramas seemed to entice me more than the food today for some reason, so I pulled out the book that stuck with me all through last summer- Jamie’s Italy. I practically lived off this book last year. So many beautiful pasta dishes, salads and soups. Italy has always drawn my attention. Italians have one of my favorite kitchens and don’t even get me started about their art!

With that inspiration in mind, I headed to my local organic farmer’s market. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. It’s on days like this that the market is even more appealing. We got there a little late after having had a sumptuous breakfast of Belgian waffles (Yay! I found a recipe!), so the choice was a bit limited. Still, I managed as usual to return home with a few bags full of goodies. Since I was in the Italian mode, I got some plum tomatoes, some buffalo mozzarella, which by the way, is THE best mozzarella anyone can get their hands on, and of course, a new basil plant. I had an insalata caprese in mind. But let me first tell you about the mozzarella. It is made locally by the kind Italian man who sells it. He really has a passion for his cheeses and is very keen on giving you some complimentary basil along with some great tips about how to use the product. The taste is exactly everything mozzarella should be, mild and pure with a fresh, clean flavor. Later that evening I prepared my salad with a basil dressing made with a special treat Hans got for me, a beautiful bottle of Gianni Calogiuri Affiorato olive oil. The oil is produced in Lizzanello and its history goes back to the early 19th century. In that time, the Calogiuri family dedicated themselves to olives and oil and this continued for generations to come. Gianni Calogiuri, is the latest generation of the Calogiuri family. This oil is still made according to family traditions, and in the month of November, their crusher cold crushes the olives with care and extracts the oil with the method of “Affiorato” (surfacing). I used my lemony, peppery sea salt blend to finish off my insalata. Yum!

Among my usual produce, I also got some garlic mustard, a bottle of red South African wine, some potted herbs, and some gorgeous French plates made by Maison d’Etre. After a lovely morning of shopping we decided to go out for lunch and then have a walk around our city, where Hans not only bought me the above mentioned olive oil, but also surprised me with a new cookbook: Moro! I’ve heard a bit about this book, and especially now with the warmer days upon us, I was so happy to find it. The dishes seem warm and inviting, like a perfect summer’s day, not to mention the smart use of gorgeous spices! My darling husband even had it gift wrapped for me. I’m sure the first meal cooked from this beautiful book will please him to bits…a culinary “thank you for being the wonderful guy that you are”.

At the end of my Saturday, I realized I had, in a way, been to Italy, France and Spain, all during the course of one day. Of course, the best part was I didn’t even have to leave my wonderful city. Happiness in life can be so simple.

Again, I awoke to clear blue skies today. I know I have to get working on my research but perhaps I’ll take the day off again and spend it outdoors with my family. Perhaps I’ll cook that first meal from my new book and enjoy it with a glass of wine and the realization of how lucky I am.

PS: The animal products sold at our market all come from the animals that are raised and bred on this farm. We were also lucky enough to see the first baby lambs and goats. So sweet!


Mara said...

Wow, your day sounds really gorgeous,and all those goodies... Drool!
I also happened to go to the local market this weekend, and decided not to buy my veggies in the supermarket again until the season is over around autumn! Although it's not a certified organic market, there are so many lovely goods, and I know all of them come from people who grow them themselves, especially old ladies from nearby villages.

Kelly-Jane said...

It's good to see you back, hope you are feeling fine again :)

What wonderful pictures. It's great at this time of year, all the promise of different foods coming into view.

That lamb on it's mothers back is so cute!


annauk said...

What a fantastic post!
And how wonderful to have found a treasure like the Italian made who makes his own cheese!!
Lovely pictures Paola, and so summery!


Lisa said...

Your photographs are so beautiful, I almost feel like I'm there!
What a great day. The tomatoes and basil -- everything looks lovely!